Jul 31, 2013

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Rise of the Triad Review

Rise of the Triad Review

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Quite a while back, when Wolfenstein 3D was released, an expansion pack was in development titled Wolfenstein II: Rise of the Triad. However, this was eventually cancelled as ID wanted to keep the attention on their upcoming game, Doom. Like the HUNT team, however, Apogee weren’t going to give this game up – and it eventually developed into the cult classic Rise of the Triad: Dark War. While obviously not as popular as other FPS games of the time, it gained a mass following, who loved it for its bizarre level design and unique weapons. And in 2013, Apogee and Interceptor Entertainment have decided to give the title a revival – and it’s a great success.

Rise of the Triad stars a team of five agents from a taskforce called HUNT, who have been sent on a reconnaissance mission to an area off the coast of Southern California named San Nicolas Island. There, they must uncover the secrets and plans of an evil organisation known only as “The Triad.” When their boat gets shot out of the sea, the team are trapped on the island, and they are forced to retaliate and stop whatever the titular foes are planning. Essentially, this boils down to “kill all of the bad guys,” and that’s all you really need to know – the story doesn’t have much of an impact on the gameplay, and it really isn’t necessary.

This game, just like its predecessor, is a first-person shooter. Unlike many other FPS games of today, this game retains the fast-paced gameplay of 90s shooters similar to the original game – constantly running, encouraging speed-runs and quick combat. As someone who hasn’t exactly grown up with these kind of games (apart from the occasional Unreal Tournament) this style of gameplay didn’t come naturally to me, but it didn’t take long for me to adapt to it. Speeding around and blasting foes feels wonderful.

The level design is pretty simplistic, but really entertaining – featuring jump pads and floating platforms, the stages are designed to encourage a lot more platforming than one would expect from a first-person shooter, and it’s refreshing to play a shooter that encourages this kind of movement.

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The game lets you play as all five HUNT agents, each with their own levels of speed and endurance (health). Despite the high-speed nature of the gameplay, I found myself attracted to the character with the highest endurance and the lowest speed. The character still runs quickly, but is a much bigger bullet sponge compared to his thug-thwacking allies. This was the only character I could handle playing as, but I’d imagine that higher-skilled players would be fine with any of the other choices.

The weapon system of this game is very different to many others of its kind; while you do start with a pistol (which can be upgraded to dual pistols), similar to many, it has infinite ammo – along with an MP40 submachine gun. While these weapons are weak, they can still provide a good punch against many enemies if the players are in a tight spot.

There are weapons that require ammo, most of them explosive, and these make up the majority of the player’s arsenal. The “standard” weapon is a Bazooka, but this can be exchanged for other explosive launchers, including one which homes in on enemies, one that acts like a minigun with missiles and one that can blast a wall of fire towards enemies.  These make up the “meat” of the combat – most enemies go down in one or two hits with explosives, and along with the speedy nature of the player characters, it makes for a very fun experience.  It is a shame, however, that you can only hold one of these at once, especially given how little ammo they can hold.

You do get to battle using a few melee weapons, including a magic bat and a knife, which can be used by pressing the Q button. These aren’t as fun to use as the other weapons in the game; instead of having to be close enough to an enemy to hit them, your character instead automatically lunges towards the nearest enemy at the click of the mouse or press of the button. The animation for this feels a little off, to be honest, and given how good it feels to be able to pull off a successful shot on an enemy, it’s weak that there’s no similar feeling of satisfaction here.

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There are a few power-ups in the game that are scattered throughout the levels, including ones that let you fly and ones that make you bounce around like a pinball. The most interesting power-ups are “God Mode,” which is not just invincibility but also a lightning-spewing hand of a deity, and “Dog Mode,” which turns you into a dog with an incredibly powerful bark attack. These two modes in are incredibly fun to use, in particular God Mode, which upon collecting it for the first time showed me just how incredibly insane Rise of the Triad can be – and how glorious it is.

The single-player campaign contains 20 stages, evenly shared across four chapters, and I’d say that how long it takes to play through the campaign depends on skill, so it’s not easy to judge the length of it.

The multiplayer is even more nuts than the single-player experience; while the servers at the time of writing weren’t entirely full, there were still enough people that matches were frantic – which is helped by the fact that explosions are most likely going off everywhere. However, this does bring up the issue of less-skilled players possibly not getting a fair chance – one may have an issue of collecting a better weapon after spawning, as there does not seem to be any spawn protection, but that can be overcome with more practice.

There are three game modes in the game currently: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag. While I found Capture the Flag to be fun, I found that standard Deathmatch entertained me the most – it was the mode which seemed to capture the intense fun of the game the most.

Rise of the Triad’s graphics are surprisingly pretty nice; in fact, they’re so good that even the most up-to-date PCs will have trouble running them on the highest possible difficulty setting. However, it can be ran on lower-end systems fairly well, too.

The sound design of Rise of the Triad is a little bit of a mixed bag; sound effects overall are particularly nice and meaty, and it makes taking out enemies just feel right. However, the voice acting leaves a lot to be desired, with characters in cutscenes sounding like they’re not putting their all in. The voice clips of the characters got grating as the game progressed – hearing a character say something like “This Baby could put a smile on ANYONE’S face!” when picking up a weapon, or hearing a weaker character repeat “A box with a red cross on it, ANYTHING” while at low health really gets tiresome. I would have turned off the sound if I didn’t need to hear out for Triad voices too.

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However, the game makes up for this with a fantastic soundtrack. Andrew Hulshult does a great job recreating tunes from the original game, with rock music that feels really empowering, and really motivates you into playing more of the game. If that wasn’t enough, however, you can enable “classic mode” in the options to use the original soundtrack, which is just as awesome, and a really nice feature.

Overall, Rise of the Triad is an incredibly fun, action-packed shooter, which really pays its respects to the shooters such as the original game and other shooters of the time.  One thing that impresses me is the price – I’m quite surprised that this game doesn’t cost more, as honestly, it feels like a game that they could have possibly charged five or ten more dollars, and it would have been fine. Apart from the price, I’m really happy that a game like Rise of the Triad exists in 2013 – while many other classic reboots seem to be adapted into titles that are very similar to popular contemporary FPS games, such as Duke Nukem Forever and Syndicate, It’s good to see something like Rise of the Triad breathe some fresh air into the genre.

Rise of the Triad
Platform: PC
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Release Date: July 31, 2013
Developer: Interceptor Entertainment
Publisher: Apogee Software
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
MSRP: $14.99


8.5